Did you get a telescope for Christmas? It’s so exciting to wake up on Christmas morning to find a telescope under the Christmas tree. What a great present! Someone special has given you the universe.

The first question often asked is, “how do I use my telescope?”. Have you tried setting it up yet? Could you easily find an object in the night sky? Were you able to focus? 

Telescopes can be a bit frustrating and the instructions, if they come with any at all, are often hard to understand. 

“Galaxy Girl” to the rescue! Here are a couple of my tips to start getting you on the right track with your telescope. You’ll be using it in no time at all! 

How Do I use My Telescope Tip #1. Line up the finder scope

All telescopes should come with a finder scope on the side of the main telescope tube. There are several types of finder scope. Yours might be a red dot finder scope (usually powered by a small coin lithium battery) or a finder scope with cross hairs in the middle. You may even have our favourite finder scope, a Telrad! Although, telescopes don't usually come with Telrads.

What is a finder scope?
The finder scope is the smaller piece of equipment (a mini telescope or sighting device) that sits on the side of your telescope tube and points parallel with it.

Finder scopes have a larger field of view which means you can see more of the night sky when you look through them. Red dot finder scopes have a red laser dot that you use to point the telescope at an astronomical object. This makes it easier to pinpoint the Moon, stars and planets. The most important thing is that the finder scope is lined up with or pointing in the exact same direction as the main tube of the telescope.

How do I align the finder scope with my telescope?
Some finder scopes aren’t so easy to use but all will have some type of adjustable twist knobs or screws that alter the direction it points. These are found on the finder scope.

Believe it or not, aligning your finder scope is always best done in the daylight.
First, put in the eyepiece with the largest number (this gives you the lowest magnification – more on that below in tip #2). Look through the eyepiece and aim the main telescope tube onto the top of a light pole (or something similar) in the distance. If your telescope is motorised, leave it off for the moment and use it manually.
Second, look through the finder scope and adjust the twist knobs or screws so that it too aims at exactly the same spot that the main telescope tube is pointed at.
Well done! The finder scope is now aligned with the main telescope tube. Leave everything set up until it gets dark! It will now be easier to find what you’d like to look at through the telescope. Be careful not to bump the finder scope now that it is lined up.

Stargazers Club Telescope Class
Astronomy Guide, Mark Davies, at a Stargazers Club BYO Telescope Class aligning a telescope

How Do I Use My Telescope Tip #2. Use the eyepiece with the largest number

After you’ve lined up your finder scope (or red dot finder) with the telescope tube, and the stars have come out in the night sky, it will now be time to use an eyepiece in your telescope.

What are eyepieces?
Eyepieces are used to magnify images of objects you are looking at through a telescope. They are measured in millimetres and telescopes usually come with a couple of them. Hopefully you have a 20mm eyepiece or perhaps a 10mm one.

When you first start to use your telescope, start with the eyepiece with the largest number on it. The larger the number means the lower the magnification. This makes it easier to see the object clearly in the telescope.

There’s always a trade-off between magnifying an image and its clarity. The more you magnify an image, the less clarity it will have. So when you’re using a 10mm eyepiece you may notice the image is a little more blurry than the image seen though a 20mm eyepiece.

Lining up an object to see through your telescope
To find an object in the night sky, first use your finder scope or red dot finder to locate the object you’d like to look at. Once the object is centred in your finder scope, then look through the eyepiece. The object should be in the centre of your eyepiece too.

Focusing your telescope
Near your eyepiece, there will be a focuser which you can adjust or turn to bring the object into focus. Lower magnification means the object will appear smaller in the eyepiece but should give you a crisp and clear image.
Then try using another eyepiece with a lower number. Remember, this will give you greater magnification but sometimes won’t give you a crisp, clear image. It depends on the specifications of your telescope. Bigger mirrors gather more light which means you can magnify an image more and have better clarity at the same time.

Telescopes at a BYO Telescope Class
Different telescopes at a Stargazers Club BYO Telescope Class

Now that you’re on your way, you might be wondering “What’s next?”

You could join us at our upcoming BYO telescope class on the 8th of January, or venture out under the dark-skies of Chittering for a group dark sky night on the 26th of February.

Get more out of your telescope!

Stargazers Club WA is especially for beginners! Join a class and you’ll soon have the stars at your fingertips. Tickets available for non-members.

We look forward to welcoming you to our friendly community of Stargazers & Astronomy Lovers where we thrive on making learning about the galaxy easy & fun!

Carol Redford - Founder Stargazers Club WA


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